A swashbuckling six from Stuart Broad in his final batting innings set Australia 384 to win the fifth Ashes Test, but England were unable to make any inroads on the fourth morning at the Kia Oval.

Broad’s shock announcement on Saturday night that he would retire after this series ensured all eyes were on him as England resumed on 389 for nine.

Following a guard of honour, Broad pulled the last delivery of Mitchell Starc’s opening over into the stands and it was his final flay of the bat.

Todd Murphy trapped James Anderson lbw five balls later to dismiss England for 395 with Broad unbeaten on eight.

There would be no early heroics with the ball for Broad though, with David Warner and Usman Khawaja able to enjoy their best opening stand of the series to guide Australia to lunch on 75 without loss before rain arrived.

Broad lapped up the benefits of making his retirement plans public when he walked out to bat for one final time on day four.

A sold-out Kia Oval crowed greeted his emergence from the pavilion with a standing ovation before old rivals Australia gave the veteran a guard of honour.

England’s innings would last a further 11 balls, but it was enough time for Broad to deliver one last time with the bat.

After singles were turned down from the first five balls of Starc’s over, the sixth was smashed over square leg for six by Broad.

It would prove the final ball of Broad’s batting career with Anderson out lbw in Murphy’s next over to set Australia 384 to win the series.

Broad sprinted off to get ready for his bowling stint and despite enticing an inside edge first up from Warner, it landed safely and Ben Stokes had replaced both his new ball bowlers by the ninth over.

Moeen Ali got the call after recovering sufficiently from his groin strain on Thursday but leaked runs initially and Australia’s openers brought up their fourth fifty stand of the series in the 14th over.

Further changes by Stokes saw Broad and Anderson brought back after spells from Chris Woakes and Joe Root, but quick Mark Wood was conspicuous by his absence.

Australia’s scoring rate did slow and yet Khawaja and Warner nudged their way past the 73-run partnership they put on at Lord’s with the former surviving an lbw appeal by Root before light rain arrived as the players walked off.

England great Stuart Broad could bring the curtain down on a stellar Test career on day four of the final Ashes Test at the Kia Oval.

Broad made the shock announcement regarding his decision to retire following this series at the close of a productive third day where England made 389 for nine, an overall lead of 377.

If Ben Stokes does not spring another declaration, Broad will walk out in a batting capacity for one last time at the Kia Oval alongside James Anderson, the other half of the memorable bowling duo, on Sunday.

No matter how long England’s second innings does last, Broad’s main task of the day will be to terrorise Australia for one final occasion with plenty on the line in south London.

View from the dressing room

Broad confirmed his retirement plans in a post-play interview with Sky Sports after England had smashed 389 in 80 overs. He made up his mind at 8.30pm on Friday and told captain Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum later that evening before he revealed the news to the rest of the team on Saturday morning.

Creepy crunches through cover again!

Before Broad’s retirement had been made public, all eyes were on how England would fare following nip-and-tuck first and second days where Australia manufactured a 12-run lead after both teams had their first go with the bat.

Zak Crawley set the tone with another first-ball special, crunching a wide Mitchell Starc delivery through cover for four to begin his final innings of the series in the same vein he started this Ashes at Edgbaston, where he smashed the opening ball in Birmingham past cover to the boundary off Pat Cummins.

Crawley and Ben Duckett shared a fifty stand for the first wicket with the Kent opener eventually falling for 73, enough to put him back on top of the run-scoring charts with an overall total of 480 runs, with nearest challenger Usman Khawaja the only player realistically able to knock him off first spot with 57 runs required to do so on Sunday.

Another ravenous Root ramp

After Crawley’s dismissal, Joe Root joined Stokes at the crease with the England captain in the unorthodox position of number three due to Moeen Ali’s time spent off the field on Friday.

Root initially struggled, wearing a delivery on the body and surviving a narrow lbw call against Josh Hazlewood, but the introduction of Mitch Marsh was greeted with a ramp shot for six and the former skipper never looked back.

Anything short was treated with disdain while Root milked the field for singles and twos before a flurry of boundaries off Starc took him into the nineties, but he could not bookend this Ashes with centuries after a Todd Murphy delivery kept low to bowl him for 91. Nevertheless, he walked off after a 60th Test half-century with England’s lead already beyond the 300-mark.

Here’s one for Jonny

It is no secret that Jonny Bairstow has endured a difficult series with the gloves, but he again highlighted the upside of his inclusion in the England XI with a sparkling 78 on day three.

Bairstow walked out with England on 222 for four and only a batting collapse away from throwing away a position of strength in their efforts to level the series at 2-2.

The response from Bairstow was to counter-punch, striking 34 runs off 35 balls before tea and upping the ante in the evening session until he edged behind to Alex Carey. His third fifty of the series brought his own tally of runs up to 322, the third most by an English wicketkeeper in an Ashes behind Alan Knott and Alec Stewart, who made 364 and 378 runs respectively in the 1974-75 and 1993 series which both contained six Test matches.

One Last Dance?

Spectators at the Kia Oval were none the wiser about Broad’s retirement intentions when last-man Anderson walked out to join his friend at the crease but it represented a special moment with the pair together with bats in hand for potentially the last time.

Applause greeted the arrival of Anderson, despite announcing before this match his desire to continue playing Test cricket, and he delighted the sell-out crowd with back-to-back boundaries against Murphy. He then successfully reviewed a lbw decision that was given out.

Broad and Anderson may get given another opportunity to bat on Sunday but if Stokes does decide to declare, that is the perfect way for Broad to bring his batting career in Test cricket to its conclusion.

The end of an era

There have been many times where Broad has written his own script and you would not bet against him doing the same on day four, especially with the threat of rain on Sunday and Monday.

Broad will be desperate to bowl England to a series-levelling victory and even though he has enjoyed an outstanding Ashes with 20 wickets at an average of 28.15, four more scalps will ensure he finishes top of the wicket-takers charts.

It will be a target for the seamer, who may not be the only Englishman to hang up the boots in Test cricket during the next two days with Moeen expected to go back into red-ball retirement. If he can bowl after Thursday’s groin twinge, it would be a major boost for the hosts.

Australia slammed on the brakes on the second morning of the final Ashes Test, shutting England’s bowlers out before a stunning catch from Joe Root lifted spirits at the Kia Oval.

The home side were bowled out for a thrill-a-minute 283 on day one, scoring at a frantic pace but burning out in less than 55 overs, with the tourists grinding their way to 115 for two in reply.

Australia, 2-1 up and with the urn already retained, were more than happy to block their way through the first session and shored their position up with some low-risk cricket which takes them one step closer to a first series win on these shores since 2001.

Resuming on 61 for one, they scraped together just 54 runs in 26 overs. Usman Khawaja was still in place at lunch, moving to 47 not out off 152 deliveries, but Marnus Labuschagne was dismissed for nine after chewing through 82 balls.

England had been probing away without success until the pace of Mark Wood finally drew a mistake, Labuschagne edging behind for what should have been a regulation take for wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.

But he remained static, leaving Root to fling himself into action at first slip and snap up a brilliant one-handed take to his left.

Labuschagne appeared to be unhappy at the fading light levels as he skulked towards the pavilion, but Root’s reactions suggested the thick, grey clouds that lingered over the ground were not too bad.

The arrival of Steve Smith, who reached 13 not out at lunch, picked up Australia’s rate, as he drove James Anderson for consecutive fours to ease past Labuschagne’s score in a fraction of the time.

Anderson endured another demoralising session, wheeling away through a couple of tidy but joyless spells in handy conditions.

The seamer, who turns 41 on Sunday, has picked up just four wickets in four matches this summer and cannot seem to find the edge of the bat despite building up a steady rhythm.

Stuart Broad was the pick of the attack in a first hour that saw just 13 runs off the bat as well as eight byes.

He had Labuschagne playing and missing, went up for an lbw appeal and saw a flick round the corner land a yard in front of leg gully, but ultimately found himself frustrated by the policy of calculated defence.

Khawaja played his role with aplomb, relentlessly eating up time at the crease in bowler-friendly conditions and ending the morning’s play with a rare flourish as he pinged Wood off his pads to the square-leg boundary.

England will be looking to end an enthralling Ashes on a high at the Kia Oval this week, taking a deserved share of the spoils despite missing out on a shot at the urn.

Australia’s tour has already been a productive one regardless of what happens over the next five days, having already secured the World Test Championship title at India’s expense and ensured the Ashes are theirs for two more years at least.

But things have been going against them for some time, surviving a Ben Stokes blitz at Lord’s, losing at Headingley and being outclassed at Old Trafford before rain spared them a thrashing.

Had that game played out to its likely conclusion and a 2-2 scoreline, things would be at fever pitch in south London as the cricket world enjoyed a rare winner-takes-all decider.

England have less to play for now but, as captain, Stokes is not lacking drive as he seeks to cap a six-week contest that has reinvigorated the Test game.

“Putting the shirt on, walking out, representing the country, leading this team out is all the motivation I need,” he said.

For opposite number Pat Cummins, the goal is clear: becoming the first Australia captain since Steve Waugh in 2001 to win a series outright on English soil.

“We know that it wasn’t our best week last week and at the end of the game it was a bit of a pat on the back, ‘well done, we’ve retained the Ashes’ but really it feels like the job’s not done,” he said.

“This group has been really motivated to win the series.”

Big numberEnd of an era?

Amazingly given the number of thirty-somethings involved this summer, not to mention James Anderson’s impending 41st birthday, there are no confirmed retirements heading into this match. Despite that there is a growing sense that many of the key combatants are close to the end of their Ashes journey. Anderson has vowed he is not hanging up his boots yet, but will surely be taking it easy when England next head Down Under in 2025/26. Among the rest it is asking a lot for Stuart Broad (37), David Warner (36), Usman Khawaja (36), Chris Woakes (34) and Mark Wood (33) to see this stage again. But first out of the door is likely to be Moeen Ali, the 36-year-old all-rounder who only came out of retirement after an SOS following Jack Leach’s injury.

Australia’s travel troublesStats wars

There is a great prestige attached to topping the charts at the end of a hard-fought Ashes and two Englishmen currently sit atop the standings. Zak Crawley’s outstanding 189 at Old Trafford catapulted him up the run-scoring list with 385 but Khawaja, Stokes, Joe Root, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne have cleared 300 and have a chance to overtake. In the bowling ranks, Broad is on his own with 18 wickets. Cummins, with 16, is his nearest challenger with Mithcell Starc one further back.

Results pitch

After the damp squib in Manchester, fans on both sides will surely want to see a positive result this time. The good news is that in 14 Tests dating back to 2008, there has only been one draw – in the 2013 Ashes. England have won eight and lost five in that time, including a rapid contest against South Africa last summer, a game that lost a day to rain and another after Queen Elizabeth II’s death and still hurried towards a conclusion. Australia also have positive memories, having claimed the crown of Test world champions there against India at the start of the summer.

Sports stars and clubs across the world continue to provide an insight into their lives on social media.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the best examples from July 26.


Harry Kane reflected on Spurs’ trip to Asia.


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A post shared by Harry Kane (@harrykane)


A bittersweet game for Ryan Reynolds.

Jill Scott will be immortalised in comic-book form.

Ray Parlour enjoyed himself.

Erling Haaland thanked Japan.

Ian Wright was made to feel welcome in New Zealand.

President of Zambia Hakainde Hichilema praised the women’s football team for their efforts at the World Cup.


Ben Stokes was rudely interrupted by Mark Wood’s choice of music.

Kevin Pietersen was on safari.

Azeem Rafiq urged the rain to stay away from The Oval.

Stuart Broad reminisced.


Conor McGregor caught World Cup fever.


Sir Chris Hoy was a proud husband.


It was a dog’s life for Padraig Harrington ahead of the Senior Open.


Usain Bolt geared up for the 2024 Olympics.


Alexander Usyk was ready for battle.

Pat Cummins insists Australia feel a strong sense of unfinished business as they bid to cap retaining the Ashes by completing an overdue series success on English soil.

The tourists begin the fifth and final Test with the urn already in the bag after last week’s Old Trafford washout frustrated England.

Australia have not won a series outright in England since 2001 and blew the chance to do so four years ago after paying the price for some over-exuberant celebrations ahead of their last visit to the Kia Oval, when they also held a 2-1 lead.

Captain Cummins believes the circumstances are completely different this time around and says his side are determined to end the 22-year wait.

“I think the good thing is that it’s a really similar group to 2019,” he said.

“That Manchester (in 2019) was a big win to retain the Ashes, which we hadn’t done for a long time off the back of Headingley, even Lord’s, where we probably missed a trick last series.

“I felt like that was a big exclamation mark on the end of that series with still one Test match to play.

“It feels really different here, this group has been really motivated to win the series.

“We know that it wasn’t our best week last week and at the end of the game it was a bit of a pat on the back, ‘well done, we’ve retained the Ashes’ but really it feels like the job’s not done.”

Australia, who went 2-0 up in the series, were spared a winner-takes-all decider in south London by a rain-ruined end to the fourth Test in Manchester.

England were well in control after piling up a 275-run first-innings lead but, with just 30 overs possible across the last two days, they were prevented from converting their dominance into a series-levelling victory.

The next five days could prove to be the end of an era for this Australia team, most of whom are aged 30 or above and may not be in contention for the next Ashes series in England in 2027.

Opening batter David Warner, who turns 37 in October, on Tuesday quashed rumours he is set to retire imminently and intends to stick to his initial plan of finishing on home soil early next year.

Pace bowler Cummins concedes knowing when to transition from one generation to the next is a complex issue but has no desire to see any player finish prematurely.

“It’s a hard one,” said the 30-year-old. “I certainly don’t want to rush anyone out of the door.

“I think this is about the fourth Ashes series where (England bowler) Jimmy Anderson has said it’s going to be his last one, so you never quite know. It is just an age.

“Some of these guys might be around here in four years and still be at the top level. We’ll see but it’s always a conversation.

“We’re lucky we’ve got white ball cricket, where you can have a soft entry for a lot of the (younger) guys, give them exposure to international cricket.

“It’s something the selectors talk about but really you try and pick your best XI each week.”

England have named an unchanged XI for the fifth and final Ashes Test at the Kia Oval.

Record wicket-taker James Anderson, who turns 41 on day four, retains his place in the side despite a disappointing series thus far while Mark Wood and Chris Woakes have both been passed fit.

Australia take a 2-1 lead into the series decider and have already retained the urn but Ben Stokes’ men are looking to square the scoreline after last week’s washout at Old Trafford.

Anderson made it clear in a newspaper column that he has no intention of retiring and plans to continue his two-decade international career as long as he is wanted.

And captain Ben Stokes made it clear that was still the case.

“Jimmy Anderson is the greatest fast bowler to play the game,” he said.

“He’s not had the impact and the wickets he’d have liked to in this series, he’s come under a bit of flak, but he’s a quality performer.”

Stokes also paid tribute to his other veteran seamer, Stuart Broad, who has defied all expectations to play six Tests in a row this summer.

“At 37 years old it’s testament to the work and effort he puts in,” he said.

“It’s amazing. It was always going to be hard for one bowler to play every game this series but he’s been incredible for us. He’s been very good at coming on with the ball and changing the game.”

James Anderson insists that “the hunger is still there” to keep playing as he prepares for the fifth and final Ashes Test at the Oval.

England have named an unchanged squad for the Test, where they are aiming to level the series against Australia, but veteran seamer Anderson has been under the microscope.

The 40-year-old has taken just four wickets at an average of 76.75 across the series, including one at his home ground Old Trafford last week, but he is still determined to keep giving his best for England.

Writing in his column for the Daily Telegraph, Anderson said: “I have certainly not had the returns I would have liked in this series. Everyone goes through a lean patch, but you just do not want it to be in the most high-profile series we play.

“I keep talking to the coach and captain. They want me around, so as long as I am still hungry, want to put in the work, I will keep trying to give my best for the team.

“That is exactly where I am at the minute. I love playing Test cricket as much as I ever have and this is my favourite period as an England cricketer.

“If I was bowling horrendously, with my pace down and hobbling around in the field, I might be thinking differently. But the hunger is still there. I feel like I am bowling well, that I can still offer something to the team.”

James Anderson is as fit as ever and could play professional cricket until he is 50, according to England and Lancashire team-mate Saqib Mahmood.

Veteran Anderson, who celebrates his 41st birthday on Sunday, has been included in his country’s unchanged 14-man squad for this week’s Ashes finale against Australia.

Amid speculation it may be his Test swansong, all eyes will be on how much of a role he plays at the Kia Oval after England’s hopes of reclaiming the urn were wiped out by wet weather in the fourth match.

Sidelined Mahmood, who on Tuesday will undergo a scan on the recurrence of a stress fracture in his back, believes Anderson is far from finished, despite struggling for wickets in the current series, which Australia lead 2-1.

“I’d like to think he’s going to keep playing on after this,” Mahmood told the PA news agency, speaking at the launch of KP Snacks’ community cricket pitches initiative which will fund 100 new pitches over the next three years.

“He’s been so consistent, he’s just had a little blip over the last few weeks and I am sure he will come good.

“You don’t get that many wickets without blips in your career, so I don’t think that is any biggie.

“In a few years’ time after he retires or whenever that may be – he’ll probably play until he’s 50 now – is when you’ll realise I was around a very special cricketer and he’ll go down as one of the best in the game.”

Asked if Anderson is capable of continuing for another decade, Mahmood replied: “Probably. Because he’s as fit as ever. He just seems to keep playing and keep getting better.

“His record over the last 12, 18 months is as good as anyone’s, I would imagine.”

While Anderson’s international future is once again a topic for debate, fellow seamers Mahmood and Reece Topley are on the comeback trail with eyes on this autumn’s ICC Cricket World Cup in India.

Topley, whose career has been littered with injuries, expects to make his return from a dislocated shoulder next week when Northern Superchargers take on Birmingham Phoenix at Headingley in their opening fixture of this season’s Hundred.

The 29-year-old left-armer believes fast bowlers across the sport will be seeking the advice of Anderson when he eventually does retire.

“He’s almost like a unicorn in the sense that it’s unheard of,” Topley said of the longevity of Anderson, who has taken a remarkable 689 wickets in 182 Test appearances – both England records.

“There’s no magic pill or anything like that, it’s just hard work.

“He’s a master of his craft, he’s worked at his craft and that mindset has surely translated into looking after his body as well.

“I’m sure every fast bowler is going to have him on speed dial, if he does hang them up, to tap into some of his secrets.

“I know he’s had a relatively quiet series but he’s obviously got the class and it wasn’t that long ago that we were all singing his praises so I’m sure he’s not far off a hatful of wickets, no matter if it is his last Test.”

:: KP Snacks are funding 100 new community cricket pitches over the next three years. To find out more and search for a pitch visit: .everyonein.co.uk/pitchfinder

Zak Crawley insists motivation will be no problem as England attempt to round off a memorable Ashes summer by levelling the series at the Kia Oval.

Without two days of rain at Emirates Old Trafford, this week’s clash was shaping up as an all-or-nothing shootout for the urn and would surely have been the most hyped Test match in this country since the touchstone summer of 2005.

The stakes are smaller for England now, but the prospect of securing a 2-2 draw and denying rivals Australia a first outright win on these shores since 2001 remains a prize to play for.

Crawley, whose outstanding 189 in Manchester became an instant Ashes classic as he flayed the Test world champions to all four corners of the ground on day two, admitted the soggy conclusion was frustrating but has no doubt about the hunger in the home dressing room.

“We’re massively up for it. Any game, you want to win,” said the opener, who sits as the top run-scorer in the series with 385.

“As Ben Stokes says, we’re building as a team, this isn’t the end just because it’s the end of the Ashes. Hopefully, it’s very much the start.

“I think 2-2 would be fair. They had the better of us at Lord’s, Edgbaston could have gone either way, we probably deserved this one and Headingley could have gone either way. So I think 2-2 would be right.

“It felt like we were getting on top of them for sure and if we’d won this game it would have been very interesting to see. They’ve got some very good players and would have bounced back but the momentum would have been with us for sure.”

England have named an unchanged 14-man squad for the fifth Test, leaving question marks over the make-up of their pace attack.

Record wicket-taker James Anderson, who turns 41 on day four of the match, is under the microscope after a disappointing series that has seen him take just four wickets at an average of 76.75.

He managed a single breakthrough in what was his farewell Ashes outing at his home ground last week and a familiar bout of speculation around his future follows him to south London.

Anderson has defied expectations around the longevity of fast bowlers for so long that it has become an almost annual tradition to wonder if he might be set for an emotional swansong.

His prospects of getting one more chance to make his mark on this series are improved by worries over Chris Woakes, who has been excellent for the past two games but complained off stiffness in the second innings at Old Trafford.

Woakes had not played Test cricket for 18 months before returning to the side at Headingley and three games in quick succession may be too much of an ask.

England also have the up-and-coming Josh Tongue at their disposal, as well as a fit-again Ollie Robinson, and may also ask to check on leading wicket-taker Stuart Broad, who will be eager for the challenge of playing a sixth consecutive game in little more than seven weeks.

It is understood that Anderson has given no indication at all that he is planning to hang up his boots, and the notion of a grand, emotional farewell in the vein of Sir Alastair Cook is unlikely to appeal.

Rob Key, England’s managing director of men’s cricket, may find himself with a decision to make when the next batch of central contracts are awarded later this year but the three-day break between back-to-back Tests is hardly the time for such debates.

For once, Crawley’s continued selection faces no discussion whatsoever. His imperious century explained perfectly the faith he has enjoyed during leaner times and could act as a springboard for a new chapter.

“I feel I’m as good a player as I have ever been, I feel good about my game,” he said.

“Fast bowling suits my game and the Australian attack is a quick attack. I think a bit less when they’re faster.

“I’m pleased with how I’m playing, I’ve just got to build on it.

“I have a bit more experience now, things to fall back on in different conditions, so I feel I can kick on now. I’ll be keeping myself to myself and listen to close friends and family. They’re the only opinions I care about.”

Australia all-rounder Cameron Green admits his side “got out of jail” in their Ashes-clinching draw at Emirates Old Trafford.

A 2-1 lead with one more game to play at the Kia Oval this week means the tourists retain the urn as holders, but they were spared a winner-takes-all decider by a rain-ruined end to the fourth Test in Manchester.

England were well in control after piling up a 275-run first-innings lead, but with just 30 overs possible across the last two days they were prevented from converting their dominance into a series-levelling win.

Green, who was one of Australia’s not out batters as the washout unfolded, told cricket.com.au: “I think we definitely got away with one there.

“There’s no point denying it. Whilst we were behind the game, and you never know what would have happened, cricket is a funny game, but England dominated this one. We definitely got out of jail.

“We didn’t play our best game. The rain gods were in our favour the last couple of days. You just take it and move on to the next game.”

Green’s place is under some doubt for the fifth Test, with fellow all-rounder Mitchell Marsh in seemingly undroppable form and Australia pondering a return for spinner Todd Murphy. Whether he makes the XI or not, Green believes the tourists will be focused on completing a first outright win in England for 22 years.

Australia were 2-1 ahead going to the Oval four years ago and paid the price for over-exuberant celebrations before the final act as England squared the scores.

“The last time they were here they had a win here to retain the Ashes, but it’s a bit different this time around,” said Green.

“I’m sure a few guys are hurting from last time. We’ll keep it level-headed and looking forward to the next game.”

England have named an unchanged squad for the final Ashes Test of the summer with a decision now required over James Anderson’s involvement at the Kia Oval.

The Manchester weather washed out play on Sunday and wrecked England’s hopes of setting up a winner-takes-all decider this week.

The draw means Australia have retained the urn with the series at 2-1 with one Test to play, but England will try to rally as a group and win in London to ensure a second successive home Ashes ends 2-2.

An unchanged 14-man squad has been selected for the fifth Test, which begins on Thursday, and all eyes will be on what England do with Anderson.

Veteran Anderson, who will turn 41 on Sunday, has struggled to take wickets throughout the series, picking up four scalps in three Tests at an average of 76.75.

He only claimed a solitary wicket in the drawn Old Trafford match and, after being rested for England’s victory at Headingley, the return to fitness of Ollie Robinson following a back spasm will leave captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum with a tough call to make in the capital.

If Anderson is left out at the Kia Oval, it could mean he has appeared in England whites for the last time with a decision required by the seamer and the selectors regarding his role over the next 12 months with central contracts set to be handed out later this year.

Mark Wood and Chris Woakes, who did struggle with stiffness towards the end of the Old Trafford Test, have impressed since being drafted into the XI while Stuart Broad is the leading wicket-taker in the whole Ashes.

Sussex seamer Robinson claimed 10 wickets in the first three Tests of the series and Josh Tongue caught the eye with his aggression in his one appearance against Australia at Lord’s.

England’s batting line-up is set to be unchanged with Moeen Ali to continue at three, but a call on Anderson and the other seamers will be made over the next two days.

England’s suffered Ashes agony at Emirates Old Trafford, as their hopes of taking a memorable series to a winner-takes-all decider fell foul of the weather.

The fifth and final day of the fourth Test was abandoned without a ball being bowled, leaving a dominant home side unable to pick up the hunt for the last five Australian wickets.

The first draw of the ‘Bazball’ era guarantees the tourists will hold on to the urn, leading 2-1 with one more game to go at the Kia Oval, and here the PA news agency looks at some of the key questions coming out of the frustrating finish.

If England can still draw the series 2-2, why have Australia retained the Ashes?

To sum it up in a word: tradition. While England fans know all too well about one-day cricket’s tie-breakers – having needed a super over and a boundary countback to pip New Zealand to the 2019 World Cup – Test cricket has no problem with the draw. When it comes to the format’s oldest rivalry the holders must be beaten outright to lose their bragging rights. Australia’s last trip to England ended with similar questions, as the tourists celebrated a 2-2 scoreline while England reflected on unfinished business. Captain Ben Stokes was given the chance to question the custom after the match, but waved it away without a second thought.

Is there any way England could have forced a win in this Test?

Having been criticised for declaring too early on the first day of the series at Edgbaston, Stokes now finds himself scrutinised for doing the direct opposite in the fourth Test. Rather than calling his side in shortly after lunch on day three, he allowed Jonny Bairstow to continue flogging Australia’s bowlers in the afternoon session as he finished on 99 not out. England finished with a first-innings lead of 275, but did not have enough time in the field to convert that into victory. An earlier withdrawal would certainly have given them more time to collect 10 wickets, but a slimmer advantage means they would have probably needed to bat again. Ultimately, their push was ruined by the rain, with 30 overs out of a scheduled 180 over the weekend. By scoring their runs at almost 5.5 an over and picking 15 wickets, England can hardly be accused of being ponderous with the time they had.

How can cricket stop important matches ending like this?

Assuming the holy grail of cricket grounds with a roof remains an expensive pipe dream, what else is there to do? The World Test Championship final has been granted a reserve day since the International Cricket Council brought it in but the idea of rolling that idea out more broadly look fanciful in the extreme. Tours are getting shorter and more congested and the cost of booking holding venues and staff for an extra day that will rarely be used would be prohibitive, especially outside England. More realistic is a push to improve over-rates. Financial sanctions have proved a hollow threat. More proactive umpiring, fewer stoppages and run penalties could all be looked at, while others suggest eating into the lunch and tea breaks. The resistance to pulling start times forward from 11am to make up for lost time remains baffling.

What’s on the line at the Oval this week?

The last Australia side to win in England did so back in 2001, meaning the current class has a chance to do something a generation of their compatriots could not. They snapped a long losing streak with a shared series four years ago and will be desperate to go one better now. For England, there is a chance to keep up an undefeated streak under the Stokes-McCullum leadership regime and frustrate their rivals in the process. A 3-1 loss would be a poor reflection on their efforts over recent weeks, so there is some work to do to deliver a more fitting result.

Why does it feel like the end of an era?

Because it is. Several of the key protagonists are well into the autumn of their careers and face uncertain futures. The next battle is not until the winter of 2025/26 and there are a host of veterans for whom that seems a long way. England’s record wicket-taker James Anderson turns 41 at the end of the month, Moeen Ali is sure to return to Test retirement in the coming days, while Stuart Broad (37), Chris Woakes (34) and Mark Wood (33) have plenty of miles on the clock. As for Stokes, his body is creaking and the toll his injury problems are taking is not yet clear. For Australia, David Warner has already set his own timetable for departure while it would be a surprise to see Steve Smith, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon on these shores again in 2027. The Oval Test could be the last dance for these teams.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan believes Ben Stokes’ side still have “a huge amount to play for” in the final Ashes Test, as they look to deny Australia a first away win in over two decades.

A rain-ruined finish to the fourth Test at Emirates Old Trafford saw England’s chances of regaining the urn washed away on Sunday, but they have just three days to lick their wounds before embarking on the series finale 2-1 down at the Kia Oval.

The last Australian side to win a series on these shores did so in 2001, with Vaughan kicking off England’s era of dominance at home when he led his team to victory in the golden summer of 2005.

The Baggy Greens have had five winless tours in a row, also losing in 2009, 2013 and 2015 before taking a 2-2 draw four years ago, and Vaughan wants to keep the streak going.

“You wouldn’t want to be the first England team to lose here since 2001, so I do think there’s a huge amount to play for down at the Oval,” he told BBC Test Match Special.

“I know they’re 2-1 down but it just feels like England have been the better team. They’ve played some good stuff and dominated many parts of the Test matches.

“I’ll be interested to see how Australia play at the Oval and whether or not they try to be positive. If England win at the Oval, they deserve it because they have been the better side. If Australia play the way they have in this test then England will absolutely wipe them.

“They’ll go back to the first two Tests and look at mistakes they’ve made in the field and at that batting collapse in the first innings at Lord’s, but I do think they are a team that learn quickly now.”

Australia great Glenn McGrath, who was part of teams in 2001 and 2005, believes his country’s passive performance in Manchester was a deliberate tactic to scrape the draw they needed to secure the urn.

He also suggested England had cause for regret, suggesting they batted on too long on Friday before the weather turned and also passed up opportunities earlier in the series.

“To me, Australia played this game in survival mode, to protect the lead they’ve got,” he said.

“Australia knew what they wanted to do and they may have looked a bit ugly and a bit negative doing it, but their goal was to retain the Ashes in this match and they’ve done it.

“Looking back at that declaration (decision), if they had finished at lunch on day three, given themselves 10 more overs when the ball was doing a bit more, they could easily have picked up six or seven wickets.

“The story could be different. England had the opportunity but for some reason decided to play on after lunch which, to a degree, sealed their fate. If they’d played truly ruthless cricket, they could be 3-0 up by now but they’re 2-1 down at the Ashes have gone.”

Ben Stokes will not be bringing the Ashes urn back home after a fifth-day washout in Manchester but the captain believes his England side have played their way into the nation’s hearts.

Relentless rain at Emirates Old Trafford on Sunday ruined England’s hopes of putting the finishing touches to a dominant performance in the fourth Test, with five of the last six sessions in the match lost without a single ball bowled.

That was enough for Australia to get out of jail with five wickets in hand, retaining the Ashes with an unassailable 2-1 lead despite being beaten at Headingley and roundly outclassed in the first three days here.

Fans on both sides of the rivalry will now be denied the spectacle of a blockbuster series finale at the Kia Oval, but Stokes is confident his team’s thrill-a-minute style has already secured a place in the game’s folkore.

England have recast themselves as foot-to-the-floor entertainers in the ‘Bazball’ era, drawing in new fans and taking the Test format into places it has not been since the beloved summer of 2005.

“It’s a tough one to take, a tough pill to swallow. We were completely and utterly dominant throughout the hours of play we had, but the weather didn’t help us and we can’t change that,” Stokes said.

“If this game went without rain we probably would have been favourites to be sat here at 2-2 and I think that would have elevated everything that this series has already done for Test cricket.

“But I think what we’ve managed to do has already done wonders for cricket in England. I said in the dressing room that the reward for your work isn’t what you get, it’s what you become. And I think what we’ve managed to become is a team that people will remember.

“We’ve become a team that have been so unbelievably well followed and we will live long in the memories of those who have watched us.

“As much as I would love to be an Ashes-winning captain, I want this team to be a legacy team. Regardless of how the series ends up, people will always talk about us.”

Stokes refused to fumble for distractions, brushing aside questions about reserve days and the tradition of the holders having the right to retain in a draw series.

“Test cricket is five days. I don’t ever see there being a reserve day in a series like this,” he said.

“This is the way it’s always been. We know we can’t get the urn back but we can draw the series and that’s what we’ll be trying to do.”

There is precious little time for Stokes to rally his troops for that challenge, with the fifth and final Test starting on Thursday.

Whether England can carry their momentum through remains to be seen, but the prospect of denying Australia a first series win on these shores since 2001 is a motivation in its own right.

“We have to get over the disappointment and focus on that game,” Stokes said. “It is a massive one for us and we know 2-2 sounds a lot better than 3-1.

“The mentality and mindset within this dressing room is to go out and win. Every time we walk out on the field that’s all I encourage the players to do, just concentrate on what you need to do as an individual to influence a game in the right way.

“There’s no doubt if we’d managed to get a result in this game next week would have been a very, very special week in the history of English cricket, not just Ashes cricket. But we’ll be treating it as we do every other game.

“We’re always putting our front foot forward and trying to press the game as hard as we possibly can. As a captain that’s something that makes me very proud as a leader of the 10 other guys out there.”

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